ABSTRACT

In late March 1640 Henry King, Dean of Rochester, preached a laudatory sermon at St Paul’s celebrating the sixteenth anniversary of the accession of King Charles and the happy condition of his country. Law and felicity ruled, and England was the envy of every foreign land. The kingdom enjoyed not only the best of all forms of government but a ruler who was a model of kingly virtues. That there was a defensive side to this happy picture only enhanced its power. The church had fended off attacks on episcopacy and had preserved purity of doctrine and practice, while ‘abstruse controversies’ had been ‘banish’d […] from the Pulpit’. Legal challenges, notably over Ship Money, had been repulsed. The royal navy now bestrode the ‘foaming Billowes’ and its ‘Wooden Castles’ repelled ancient enemies. One ancient enemy had not been repelled, however, and even King was forced to admit that the ‘Cement which combin’d’ England and Scotland had ‘now grown loose’, but he hoped for better times. Inglorious failure against the Scots in 1639 became evidence of the king’s ‘undaunted Courage’ in hazarding his own life when the safety of his people required it. 1 In retrospect, it seems a surprising assessment. Yet nearly thirty years later, Clarendon agreed. England alone, he said, had been spared the ‘tragic sufferings’ that ravaged Europe. Instead, King Charles’s

three kingdoms flourish[ed] in entire peace and universal plenty, […] his strong fleets commanding all seas; and the numerous shipping of the nation bringing the trade of the world into his ports; […] and all these blessings enjoyed under a prince of the greatest clemency and justice, and of the greatest piety and devotion, and the most indulgent to his subjects, and most solicitous for their happiness and prosperity. 2